Euroadventure 2014: Happy Birthday, David!

We managed to get out and about at a decent time Saturday morning. It was Dave’s birthday and we were headed straight to the Prague Castle via the #22 tram, which took us west across the Vltava and through the Little Quarter. Our stop was also directly in front of the castle entrance, and though for a second I was confused, the hoards of people confirmed we were headed in the right direction. Before entering the grounds, we I stopped to take a picture with the guards at the entrance.

with the Prague Castle guard

with the Prague Castle guard

Inside we bought the short tour tickets, an audio guide to share and a photography permit, which we could have done without considering no one was policing the taking of pictures at any of the sites. The audio guide was super helpful, especially with my y-splitter so Dave and I could each plug in our headphones. Rick Steves has a great guided walk as well, but it was nice to just listen to commentary and have the opportunity to look around rather than keeping your head in a book half the time.

Our first stop in the castle was St. Vitus Cathedral. This is the soaring building that can be seen from most anywhere in Prague, as it sits atop a hill. Construction began in 1344, but the church was not officially finished until 1929. Inside we saw beautiful stained glass, tombs of many great Czech saints and kings, intricate carvings (a beautiful relief of Prague) and sculptures and far too many large tour groups. (Hint: Click on the pictures in these galleries if you want to enlarge them.)

Next we toured the Old Royal Palace, with a massive Gothic-style hall that has been used for a great variety of happenings, from banquets to markets to jousting. I was fascinated with the high flower-shaped vaulted ceilings and chandeliers in Vladislav Hall. Dave was disappointed that the display of Czech crown jewels only held the replicas.

The palace exit put us in place to enter the Basilica and Convent of St. George, the oldest surviving church within the castle grounds, originally founded in 920. Taking a seat in the pews, we were happy to rest our feet and I was once again amazed with the ceiling, which was a deep, rich wood accentuated by the light stone walls. Walking toward the altar we passed under old archways and by beautiful frescoes then followed the stairs down to the crypt where tombs of several historical figures are kept. Just before exiting, visitors pass through a chapel dedicated to St. John of Nepomuk, where a skull and bones are enclosed under the altar. (Rick Steves says they aren’t real … but I say believe what you like.)

We were nearing the end of our audio guide rental (word to the wise: pay the extra money for an “all day” rental rather than the three hours for the regular rental) so we decided to listen to a bit of the commentary around the outside of the buildings about various sculptures and fountains in the courtyard areas. Snapping pictures along the way, we were glad that the morning tour rush had subsided a bit.

After turning in the audio guide, we made our way to the last main site of our castle tour, Golden Lane. The narrow street is lined with tiny colorful houses that were originally built to be homes for those who worked at the castle and on the grounds. Eventually it became a popular area for artists, and at one point Franz Kafka spent a couple years writing in #22. Now the houses are filled with souvenir shops, a pub and museums of sorts. At the end of the lane, we stepped into the creepy torture chamber in a medieval dungeon. It was super creepy especially as Dave began to fit in …

At this point we were ready to sit down and eat, so our mission was to find a nice spot with outdoor seating and maybe a view. We visited a couple places Dave noted on his list, but struck out twice. Finally we settled on Malostranska Beseda Restaurant in Little Quarter Square across from the Church of St. Nicholas. As it was after the lunch rush, we scored a nice table outside perfect for people watching. We toasted to Dave’s birthday with Czech wine and beer, ordered salads and hearty main dishes – beef and dumplings for Dave, gnocchi and lardon for me.

Stuffed, happy and ready to continue, we walked through the Little Quarter’s little boutiques, making our way toward Kampa Island and the Lennon Wall. We found several “love lock” covered bridges and allowed ourselves to stroll a little more aimlessly, enjoying the quaintness of it all while the storm clouds rolled in – luckily the rain blasted through pretty quickly while we ducked into some shops.

It was finally time to walk the pedestrian-only Charles Bridge (after almost three days in Prague) and I was fully prepared with the guidebook to provide history of the various statues. We took note of the spot where St. John of Nepomuk was thrown off the bridge after being tortured for refusing to tell the King his wife’s confession secrets.

Returning to our hotel, we showered and dressed up for Dave’s birthday dinner at Bellevue, a riverside restaurant with beautiful castle view. I made a reservation far enough in advance that we were even able to get window-side seating perfectly timed with sunset. The menu offers several tasting options and we both decided on the “build your own” version with wine pairings – Dave chose the broader European wines, while I decided to go local with the Czech wines. Presentation was perfect, the food exquisite and service exceptional. We enjoyed all the wines, especially one from Italy, and Dave got a nice pre-dessert treat from the restaurant staff and then an after dinner surprise back at the hotel!

There is so much more that we could have seen and done. I definitely would like to go back, but after three busy days, I was ready for our next stop – Vienna!

 

tuesday things

My thoughts lately, according to Pinterest.

1. This looks amazing. And oh-so-bad for you. Who’s wants to try it with me??

2. Two of my favorite foods – Mexican and pizza. This is definitely on my list of recipes to try.

3. I wish Dave drank coffee so we could use these mugs together. It would be even better if he ate fried eggs. Or bacon. (Blasphemy!)

4. Check out these social media tips. Some I knew and others were life changing.

5. This pin doesn’t actually take me to these pants, and now I am on a mission to find them. (Please leave any suggestions in the comments section below!)

6. Have you heard of this app called Kitestring? Or something else like it? I think they are such a great idea, even though I’m not usually walking around after dark by myself anymore. I definitely used to though. I was even dumb enough to walk down the alleys behind my last two apartments! (I know, dumb does not even fully encompass how terrible that was.) So tell me, have you ever used an app like this? If so, what are your thoughts?

7. Finally, I leave you with a wonderful piece of advice on how to live life. Just be happy!

Dry Creek Valley Passport Weekend 2013

Dry Creek Valley Passport Weekend 2013

Have a fabulous week, friends!!

 

tuesday things

1. For months I have wanted to try out this produce delivery service called Washington’s Green Grocer. It’s an on-demand service offering delivery of various produce boxes and other goods once a week. After talking it through with my BFFSM Olivia, I selected the local produce box for delivery every other week and she picked the large mixed box using the on-demand option. My first box came and I was so excited!! I will definitely keep this up and will likely take it to the next level and go weekly – it’s affordable and also forces me to use new foods when cooking,  like celeriac. I’d never even heard of it! It’s also a great way to support local farmers and make an effort to have a lower impact on the environment since the produce is not being shipped from all over the world. 

2. Speaking of food, DC always has new restaurants popping up and I love to try them out. Recently Bidwell opened in Union Market, Lincoln in NW DC and The Arsenal at Bluejacket Brewery near the Nats stadium. All had delicious food (as Dave says, “Someone is paying attention here.”) but the absolute best service was at The Arsenal, and Lincoln definitely won the award for atmosphere/theme.

photo 1

Lincoln

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#beerflight before dinner with @layne1020

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^^My first beer flight – The Arsenal at Bluejacket^^

3. My freshman roommate Erin visited last weekend and we had a blast! Food and drink plans mostly dominated our agenda for the weekend, but one activity that didn’t fit that mold was a trip to the U.S. Botanic Garden. I’d never been and it was a treat!

photo 2

pretty pretty

4. We also spent an afternoon in Georgetown picking up some essentials like this shirt, this lip gloss in deep rose and a card from Paper Source for my three year anniversary with Dave. Yes, it’s been three years TODAY! Hard to believe because when I think of all our memories it seems like so much longer and yet these years have really f-l-o-w-n by.

5. This is totally random, which I guess fits with the theme for today’s “things” … I don’t know about you guys, but I would really love the option to mass edit my pins on Pinterest. When I first started using it I arranged things in a pretty general way, and now some of my boards (like the ones for food and home) have really outgrown those broad categories because there are just way too many pins! I need to organize my boards into more specific themes like meal planing and desserts or living room and laundry room. It would be so much easier to select a group of pins and move them all at once rather than having to edit each pin individually. Help a sister out and VOTE for Pinterest to add this feature by going to this link and simply clicking the “me too!” button.

That’s all for today folks! If you tuned in yesterday, you’ll know that I plan to post more before and after pictures of the house soon – as in sometime this week. Come back for more!